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Alan Green: It’s World Cup bidding that’s unethical, not media tactics


FIFA president Sepp Blatter

FIFA president Sepp Blatter

FIFA president Sepp Blatter

Thanks heavens, it’s nearly over. I’m running out of sick bags. FIFA’s ‘ethics committee’ — as if you could trust them — meets tomorrow to discuss the fate of Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii after newspaper allegations that they wanted cash for their votes to decide who gets the World Cups of 2018 and 2022.

Either the pair will take part in the Executive Committee’s crucial gathering on December 2 or they won’t. Will it matter? You’ll have seen the revelation last week that a note had been passed between the Spanish and Qatari bidders at a recent FIFA meeting: “Vamos a ganar (We are going to win).” It’s as clear as day that there’s been collusion between the two: perhaps decisive collusion.

“I don’t think it was the time or the place (to do such a thing),” said FIFA Executive member Chuck — no, he isn’t one of the Chuckle Brothers — Blazer. “It shouldn’t have happened but nothing more than that.” Ok: let’s consider that for a moment.

When the Sunday Times broke the initial bribery story we had Sepp Blatter and his assorted cronies telling us how thorough they’d be in their investigations. Then, gradually, the emphasis shifted and FIFA’s scorn was re-directed towards the media.

Yes, why not blame the messenger?

Somehow, it was their poor members who’d been ‘trapped’ by the underhand methods of the English media. Mohamed Bin Hammam, the head of the Asian Football Confederation (yes, the same man that received that ‘Spanish’ message), who once had the temerity (I AM being sarcastic) to stand against Blatter, spoke of newspapers using unethical methods to expose unethical behaviour.

Now, tell us, how SHOULD it work? “Hello, I’m from the Daily Splurge. I say, old chap, is there any chance you’d take a bribe over your World Cup vote?” That’s bound to get an honest answer, isn’t it? FIFA’s arrogance, its naivety, its determination to treat us all as idiots, beggars belief.

But something that sickens me just as much is the reaction of those within the English bid. I’m glad that its members refuse to indulge in the corruption that’s so obvious elsewhere. At least, I believe them when they say so. But why do they think it’s necessary for journalists to keep their pens dry and their mouths shut in support of the ‘greater interest’? Their letter to FIFA — ‘blame them (the media), not us” — was pathetic.

I’ve met and know Richard Caborn, the former Minister for Sport. Overwhelmingly, he’s a decent guy. However, I’m shocked and appalled at his suggestion that a forthcoming BBC Panorama investigation into FIFA’s conduct is “unpatriotic.”

“I support investigative journalism.” But not in this case, Richard; isn’t that so?

“Panorama should refer (any) information to the FIFA ethics committee and not give England’s opponents opportunities to do it down. It’s about ratings and circulations and it’s not about backing the bid.”

Basically, what he’s saying is that journalists here should turn a blind eye to the possibility of corruption: that it’s far more important to win the right to stage the World Cup than to expose any shenanigans. He should be ashamed of himself.

I repeat: what it seems you have to do to stage a World Cup simply isn’t worth it. Russia, Spain/Portugal . . . you can have 2018.

Belfast Telegraph